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Understanding Unbelief

Public engagement

RFP3 opened in Autumn 2017 and is now closed. We are no longer accepting applications. We are planning to announce the successful projects in March/April 2018.

Call for media proposals

*** (14/12/17) The deadline for expressions of interest has been extended to 10 January 2018 ***

Through a generous grant from the John Templeton Foundation, the University of Kent is pleased to announce a funding stream for public engagement collaborations with the Understanding Unbelief research programme. We are seeking proposals from journalists, bloggers, film-makers, photographers, digital designers and curators, as well as academics and others who are interested in advancing the public’s understanding of unbelief.

The place of religion in many countries around the world has changed dramatically in recent times. More and more people are self-reporting that they have no religion (now the world’s third largest ‘religious’ population), many identify as atheists, and at the same time significant numbers of people are engaging with a vast array of non-traditional practices such as mindfulness. The Understanding Unbelief initiative is a £2.3m international human scientific research programme exploring the beliefs, worldviews and lived experiences of atheists and other religious ‘unbelievers’. Involving 22 research teams working around the world (including the central research team based in the UK), the programme investigates the different kinds of beliefs and attitudes ‘unbelievers’ have about God(s), other supernatural powers, and the moral status of religious traditions; how unbelief in religious beliefs is shaped by alternative worldviews and/or existential beliefs about the origins of life and what happens to us when we die; and how these more positive beliefs and worldviews affect people’s day-to-day lives. It also explores whether and how the beliefs, perspectives and worldviews of ‘unbelievers’ vary across national settings, and across gender, class, ethnicity and other demographic lines.

In all of this work, one of our major goals is to improve public engagement and understanding in these areas. Despite the large numbers of people identifying as nonreligious, academic research and media coverage often hone in on a limited set of perspectives and beliefs. New cultural movements like the Sunday Assembly (or ‘Atheist Church’) and activist movements associated with prominent figures such as Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris have taken centre stage, while the beliefs and ‘unbeliefs’ of many millions of nonreligious people around the world who may not share their views are left unexplored and uncommented upon. Moreover, much coverage is pitted ‘for’ or ‘against’ the nonreligious person, rather than aiming at better understanding.

We seek to appoint a number of media professionals, academics, and others experienced in public engagement activities to communicate research data and findings in accessible, compelling and/or innovative ways and to wider audiences. Successful applicants will work in collaboration with researchers on the programme to help communicate programme ideas and/or findings to wider publics, but projects can take any number of approaches to this task. Projects might, for example, offer visualisations of just how many unbelievers there are in the world and/or where they can be found, documentary or other in-depth depictions of ‘unbelievers’ in particular contexts, or new video or audio archives of unbelievers’ life stories — but we welcome also creative and innovative approaches to improving and widening engagement with scholarly work on ‘unbelief’.  Successful applicants may also base their projects on existing academic research, but will do so in consultation with one or more programme researcher. We invite media professionals with diverse methods, areas of interest and audience engagement tools to help us broaden the scope of our study.

This funding stream will provide a total of £150,000 to support public engagement activities, as well as providing opportunities for media professionals to engage with academic researchers in their work

We are now inviting expressions of interest, to be submitted to the programme no later than 10 January 2018.

For further details, including eligibility requirements and the application procedure, please refer to the information sheet provided by selecting of the two following formats:

A short introductory film on the Understanding Unbelief programme is available here, and you can read more about the background and aims of the programme here.